Why Speedy SEC Defenses Are Changing the Way Offenses Think

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterSeptember 18, 2012

Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
Texas A&M QB Johnny ManzielRonald Martinez/Getty Images

Football players in general are getting bigger, faster and stronger, and nowhere in college football is that more apparent than in the SEC.

Because of the speed of SEC defenses, and the infusion of more spread offenses at the high school level, offenses have evolved in a variety of ways to contend with "SEC speed."

Particularly with the quarterback.

When Urban Meyer was hired at Florida before the 2005 season, nobody thought the spread offense would work in the SEC. 

Not only did it work for Meyer at Florida in the form of two national championships, elements of the spread have permeated playbooks across the SEC.

The result is a greater emphasis on quarterbacks who can make things happen with their feet, even if they aren't dual-threat quarterbacks.

Georgia uses Aaron Murray on sprint outs on a regular basis, and the Georgia signal-caller can make things happen with his legs if his protection breaks down.

The pistol formation found in playbooks at Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn allow quarterbacks to see more of the defense before the snap, but also utilize a power rushing attack and make plays on designed roll outs.

All of these things have become more prevalent because they force opposing defenses to stay honest.

It isn't just a three yards and a cloud of dust, play-action conference anymore.

Linebackers still pin their ears back and come after quarterbacks, but with mobile quarterbacks, they have to account for a variety of different options. Over-pursuit is a dirty word for defenses, because mobile quarterbacks have found ways to use the speed of defenses to their advantage.

Unless you have a veteran offensive line, your quarterback is going to have to move. Not necessarily like former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton or former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones, but at least be able to make plays on the run.

Guys like Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw are the new wave of SEC signal-callers. The era of the game manager is over, even in the case of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who is deadly on the run.

Quarterbacks are now asked to at least give the illusion that they can make things happen in a variety of ways to keep defenses honest.

The more speed you see on defense, the more you will see it neutralized with speed.